Z Review (PC)
Alec asks how hard can a two decade old game hit you in the nostalgia? Z is about to find out.
Z is a re-release of the classic Bitmap Brothers RTS originally released way back in 1996. There are writers here at CalmDownTom who are younger than this game. This release, developed by TickTock Games and published by Kiss Ltd, hit Steam and GoG on the 5th of July for the frugal price of £4.99. The Z release comes just a few weeks ahead of Z: Steel Soldiers which is due out on the 26th of July.
The re-release is almost a carbon copy of the original game just dusted off and made to work with modern computer hardware. There will be no scrambling around trying to figure out what your IRQ and DMA numbers are.
Z is a fast paced RTS focused on territory capture and unit building. There is no base building aspect to the game as all the factories are already present on the map when it loads. You start each map with your main fort and a smattering of units which need to be quickly sent out to capture neighbouring territories. Once a territory has been captured, by sending a unit to its flag, any factories in that territory will start churning out units. The units each factory makes can be changed though not all factories can make all types of units.
After this each map is mostly about gaining a numbers advantage on your opponent. You can do this by paying attention to what units your opponent has and building units to counter those. Alternatively you can try to rush all the territories and hope you end up with more units at the end of it.
As is the norm with the RTS genre, Z eases you into the game by limiting what units you can produce for the first few maps. It quickly expands to allow you to build the six types of robot and a myriad of different vehicles.
Graphically nothing has changed in this re-release. The game looks pretty much exactly like I remember all those years ago. A testament to the graphic design of the original is that the units are still clearly distinguishable making the lack of a graphical upgrade a non-issue.
The big let down for Z is its control scheme. For some dastardly reason the game makes you right click and drag to select units then left click to give the unit an order. This is the opposite of the usual RTS convention and it gets irritating when trying to quickly respond to an enemies movements. Also annoying is the indeterminate speed with which the screen scrolls when moving the mouse to the edge of the visible map. It is either painfully slow or blindingly fast making you miss the point on the map you were aiming for.
Another annoyance is the lack of any multiplayer support as the re-release is singleplayer only with just the original 20 maps to choose from.
Z did hit me right in the nostalgia by including the original cut scenes from the 1996 version. Part of the allure of the original was the humor found in these videos. The cut scenes, shown in between each map, showed the loveable red robots Allan and Brad as they traveled between missions. These obnoxious robots and their run-ins with commander Zod provide some comic relief while preparing for the next mission. Back when I first played Z in the late 90s these FMV sequences looked amazing, I remember wondering how the graphics could get any better.
Z doesn’t hold a candle to modern day RTS games with their fancy graphics and their mechanical depth. It is, however, a nostalgia filled blast from the past that made me look back with my rose tinted glasses at a simpler time. For a fiver it’s just about worth it for a trip down memory lane. For those who have never played Z it is a look back at a fun RTS from almost two decades ago.
3 right in the nostalgias out of 5